Did China Stage the Videos of People Collapsing in Wuhan?

DEBATING COVID-19, 26 Apr 2021

Swiss Policy Research - TRANSCEND Media Service

“Coronavirus has people keeling over in streets” (TomoNews US, February 3, 2020)

26 Apr 2021 – Already in mid-March 2020, at a time when many people were still buying toilet paper, SPR argued that the coronavirus situation appeared to show aspects of a possibly real pandemic, a mass psychosis, and a psychological (i.e. propaganda) operation (the “three P’s”).

Recently, some people wondered if the notorious videos of “people collapsing in Wuhan” (see above), which emerged in late January 2020, had in fact been staged by the Chinese government to frighten the West into lockdowns and self-destruction. After all, it is argued, such events weren’t seen anywhere else later on during the pandemic.

For instance, on January 31, 2020, the British newspaper The Guardian titled: “A man lies dead in the street: the image that captures the Wuhan coronavirus crisis”. A week before, the British Express titled: “Coronavirus horror: Social media footage shows infected Wuhan residents ‘act like zombies’”.

But an analysis of these videos and their context shows the following:

  1. Contrary to claims that there were “dozens” or even “hundreds” of such videos, there were only about ten such videos, which were shown in various places and in various combinations.
  2. Most of these videos really had nothing to do with covid. Rather, these videos showed drunk people, homeless people (even in other Chinese cities), road accidents, unspecified medical emergencies, and even training exercises run by Chinese authorities.
  3. Because of the simultaneous virus outbreak, first responders in Wuhan often already wore protective equipment (the famous white bio-hazard suits). Thus, to bystanders and to people uploading and sharing the videos, it may have looked like actual “sudden coronavirus deaths.”
  4. In many cases, video titles, captions, or comments did suggest or claim the videos showed “sudden coronavirus deaths”, but in no case was this confirmed or claimed by Chinese authorities. In fact, several of these videos were quickly debunked by Western “fact checkers”.
  5. It looks like most of these videos were shared internationally not by people close to the Chinese regime, but by people and groups opposed to the Chinese regime (e.g. by ‘Voice of Hong Kong’ and ‘Badiucao’), who wanted to show that the Chinese regime had lost control.

If any of these videos really showed someone collapsing due to the coronavirus, it may have been due to a sudden cardiac arrest caused by viral myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation), or a major heart attack, stroke, or embolism. Such cases have been observed even in the US and in Germany.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the first English-language mention of the alleged “Chinese whistleblower doctor” Li Wenliang (who later died or disappeared) came from “China Change”, a US-based organization funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government funded entity that sponsors opposition groups in adversary countries.

This again might indicate that Western players either tried to leverage the situation in China, or tried to “frame” China (the real origin of the virus remaining unknown to this day). In contrast, the Chinese government itself primarily tried to downplay the situation, and continues to do so.

Indeed, while antibody data showed that by April 2020, coronavirus prevalence outside of Wuhan city and Hubei province was near zero (despite high domestic travel flows in January 2020), China has experienced repeated local virus outbreaks and continues to impose extreme lockdown and quarantine measures.

In conclusion, there is currently no evidence that the “collapsing people” videos of January 2020 were a “Sun Tzu style” Chinese psyop. Instead, they may have been part of the “mass psychosis” at the time, leveraged by click baiters and hoaxers and Western media, or they may have been part of a Western psyop against China, the West population, or both.

The above “collapsing people” video compilation, for instance, was published by Taiwanese TomoNews US, an anti-China news platform known for publishing “humorous and simple CGI-animated coverage of recent news stories” produced by Taiwanese Next Animation Studio.

See also

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Swiss Policy Research, founded in 2016, is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media. SPR is composed of independent academics that for personal and professional reasons prefer to protect their identities, and receives no external funding; there are no financial sponsors or backers. Our articles have been published or shared by numerous independent media outlets and journalists, among them Julian Assange, and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

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